The March of Bahrain’s HardlinersFrederic Wehrey Commentary, May 31, 2012
Conservative figures within the Bahraini royal family are redoubling their efforts to subdue the opposition. This is plainly visible in new arrests, media censorship, warnings to Shia clerics, and more aggressive counter-demonstration tactics. As a result, the institutionalized non-violent opposition represented by the Shia political society al-Wifaq is losing ground to the more radical February 14 Youth Movement.
Regime conservatives have been further emboldened by the Saudi proposal for the transformation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) into a so-called Gulf Union that would entail closer economic, political, and military ties. While the idea has been greeted with skepticism by most GCC governments and prompted Shia protests in Bahrain and across the Gulf, conservatives in the Bahraini ruling family have responded eagerly.
In this climate, the recent decision by the United States to resume weapons sales to Bahrain, intended to shore up the pro-reform Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, has had the opposite effect, encouraging royal hardliners, who see a new normalcy in U.S.-Bahraini relations.